Greetings from Arathusa!
On behalf of Arathusa Safari Lodge, we would like to wish all of our readers a very happy new year and compliments of the season.
The past two weeks have been incredible in terms of sightings. The vegetation within the reserve is thick, green and lush, providing all-around scenery and beauty. There has been a bit of rainfall in the area surrounding the lodge and the temperatures have soared to between 35 and 37 degrees Celsius.
Leopard sightings have been fantastic! On Old Year’s Eve one of the eastern territorial females (referred to as Ntima) was seen killing a juvenile side-striped jackal. It has in fact been recorded that leopards will feed on jackals and other carnivores if they kill them – showing their true opportunistic characters.
On the subject of Ntima – her two cubs (which are now between 5 and 6 weeks old) have been seen on two occasions, but are still shy and unsure of the vehicles. Due to the sensitivity of these sightings, we only spend a very short period of time with the adult female and her cubs. During the day we keep the number of vehicles down to one. This, along with good ethics, will hopefully allow the cubs to be relaxed in the presence of vehicles as they get older.
Mafufunyane, the oldest territorial male in our traversing area, has been seen on several occasions. It seems part of his core territory includes our lodge itself, as many sightings of him scent marking have been very close to camp.
The very large western dominant male known as Tyson has been seen twice over the past two weeks. On one of these occasions he was seen mating with an unknown female in the western part of our traversing area.
Safari, the elderly one-eyed leopard, has been seen on several occasions on our property and seems to be taking full advantage of the young impala lambs still around after the November lambing season. Safari has all the odds in her favor at the moment – the vegetation is very dense, enabling the very experienced leopard to completely disappear.
The young and newly territorial female, Salayexe, and her two cubs have also been sighted in the western part of our traversing area. One very notable sighting was when Salayexe climbed up into a russet bush willow tree and watched her cubs play below – right in front of one of our neighboring lodges. The cubs are showing much curiosity for anything and everything that moves, attempting to catch lizards, birds, mice and spiders.
The Ostrich Koppies (hills) female provided us with a very nice sighting close to one of our neighbouring dams. The relaxed nature of this leopard is incredible, and we will hopefully be seeing more of her in the future.
Lion sightings in the area have also been very good. The Styx pride has accounted for most of the sightings in the far eastern part of our traversing area, and has also been seen within 3km of our lodge. The Sandy Patch pride has also been seen a few times on our property. The lions in this pride are in very poor condition and seem to be struggling.
The two Mapogo males (Mlowati males) were sighted a lot in the first week of the New Year, but not since then. Rumors have been heard from some of the other rangers in the neighboring MalaMala and Londolozi Game Reserves that the male known as Mr. T has an injury. We are not sure how it was sustained. His back paw pad has been removed and he is seriously injured. If this is the case, the odds do not look very good for him, as a dominant male lion that cannot travel far distances or hunt effectively will soon lose its dominance and eventually perish.
We have been incredibly fortunate to have two sightings of cheetah over the past two weeks. Both have been in the eastern part of our traversing area where the vegetation is not as dense and where there are large open areas – both preferred by cheetah. Both sightings were of males – one young male and an older larger one. Both cheetahs eventually crossed the boundary into another reserve.
Wild dogs have been seen twice in the past two weeks. Both sightings were of a pack of four : two females and two males.
Buffalo, Rhino, and Elephant.
These large mammals have also been prevalent over the past two weeks. Elephant have been scattered throughout, with some very large tuskers moving through the property. Many of these bulls have been in a condition of heightened testosterone levels known as “musth” (pronounced “must”), and have been trailing behind the bigger herds of females and young males, in search of a receptive female. One truly incredible sighting happened when a massive tusker stood next to the mud wallows and threw mud all over his body, both cooling himself and helping to eradicate ecto-parasites. This continued for almost an hour and a half, during which time one could not help but be captivated by these incredible giants.
Rhino sightings have also been plentiful, particularly of the Londolozi bull that is often on our airstrip. There has been one very big breeding herd of buffalo seen, but the rest have been of the bachelors or “dagga boys”. They have chosen their favourite mud wallows and tend to stay close by to combat the midday heat.
Bird sightings have also been superb. Some rare sightings have been of the Pygmy Kingfisher, Dwarf Bittern, Purple Rollers, Black Crowned Night Heron, Grey Headed Kingfishers, Ground Hornbills and Lappet-Faced Vulture.
We hope to see you soon.
Warm regards from the team at Arathusa Safari Lodge.